What Does a Tadpole Eat?-In The Wild and In an Aquarium: A Care Guide

What does a Tadpole eat

If you are keeping tadpoles as your pets, then the very first question to pop-up in your mind is, what does a tadpole eat? Well, the journey from a tadpole to an adult frog requires many weeks of growth and development. In the meantime, tadpoles search for foods that give them the proper nutrients to appear as a full-fledged frog and get adequate fuel to accomplish their activities. 

It is all nature’s miracle how all the creatures find their way of living and complete their lifecycle on earth. But it becomes quite tricky when you pet tadpoles, as you need to be consistent with looking after their needs for changing their appearance in the course of their growth. 

So, to ensure proper care, you need to feed them with appropriate foods from time to time. If you are perplexed about what to provide to nourish them with? Well, then keep reading this article “What does a Tadpole Eat” to know what a tadpole eats.

What is a Tadpole in an Aquarium?

The larval stage in a frog’s lifecycle is referred to as tadpoles; or, you can call them baby frogs. Tadpoles are wholly aquatic and in the pre-stage of turning into an amphibian. Whether it is the outer appearance, physiology, or anatomical structure of a tadpole, all are quite different from a full-grown adult frog.
Have you ever closely observed the tadpoles in an aquarium? If you did, then you must have seen that these baby frogs have tails, lateral lines, and internal gills, which are not found in the full-grown amphibians. Thus, the tiny frogs are called tadpoles from hatching to their tails’ disappearance and growing legs.

The Lifecycle of a Tadpole to Frog:

tadpoles lifecycle

We all have read the frog lifecycle in our biology syllabus at our high school. Do you remember how exciting and fun activity it was to draw the lifecycle of a frog? Well, then what about a revision again to get a bit nostalgic?

The entire lifecycle of a tadpole starts from the hatching of the egg and then metamorphosing into a fully grown adult frog. A tadpole typically goes through 5 stages in its lifetime. Each stage marks its growth and development.

It all starts with the laying of the fertilized eggs. A female frog is capable of laying 4000 eggs at once. Their eggs have a jelly-like appearance. And it takes about 1-3 weeks to hatch the eggs and come out with the tadpoles.

What’s next? Right after hatching the eggs, a tadpole’s initial appearance looks more like that of a fish. They grow gills for breathing. Tadpoles have no legs, and they keep swimming and hovering around in the water. At this time, they develop their lungs as well. With the passing weeks, their hind legs start to grow. Now you can call them a froglet or a tiny frog with a tail. Funny, right?

The froglet then grows front legs, and gradually their tail starts disappearing. And for the first time, they start coming out of the water, on the land.

As soon as they turn into frogs, the tail disappears, and by nature, they turn into carnivores. It takes around 2-4 years for a tadpole to become a fully grown adult. After that, they must continue their generations.

The adult female frogs lay eggs, as they don’t have many exciting things to do with their life, unlike us, the superior human beings. I am just kidding! And eventually, the entire cycle re-iterates.

So, if you want to get more detailed information on the growth of a tadpole into a frog, then the study of a frog’s physiology and morphology might help to a great extent. 

What Does a Tadpole Eat in the Wild?

Tadpole in the wild

Tadpoles are mostly aquatic by nature. They inhabit seasonal and permanent wetlands, small and slow-moving water bodies, lakes, and ponds filled with numerous plants, algae, and tiny fishes. So, you might be wondering what does a tadpole eat while hovering in their habitat.

During the hatching period, they feed on the sack of their egg yolk. Bizarre, right! It’s not so weird for them, as they get high protein from the yolk; protein is crucial to ensure healthy growth of their body and help them thrive. 

But their actual life starts when this yolk is exhausted, as this is the time when they need to search for food for themselves. The newly hatched baby tadpoles are too small to find any food, so their initial period starts with eating algae, being herbivores. 

However, as soon as they grow, their diet keeps changing. Eventually, the tadpoles switch to an omnivore, similar to other freshwater creatures. And this is when their diet starts getting even more complicated with their growth to fulfill their caloric needs.

These tiny tadpoles come across the foods that most of the freshwater creatures strive to have. Algae, planktons, vegetations, water striders, and dead insects are their ultimate breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But can you have the same food for a lifetime? No, right! So do the tadpoles. As they grow, the tadpoles try their delicacies with small fishes. And once they are fully-grown frogs, they turn into carnivores.

What Does a Tadpole Eat in a Pond?

A pond is filled with algae and various plants. Tadpoles choose them as their initial foods. As they start growing, they feed on small insects to fulfill their energy needs and change their dietary habits.

So, are you wondering what does a tadpole eat when their veg diet is not enough? Well, the answer is quite shocking! They start eating away small fishes and even their fellow tadpoles. In the end, Darwinism prevails.

What Does a Tadpole Eat in an Aquarium?

Have you just added these tiny creatures to your aquarium as your extended family? If yes, then the first question, which will brainstorm you, is what does a tadpole eat while residing in your aquarium. 

Well, it’s all about special care when they are your family. To grow healthy tadpoles, you need to ensure that you are feeding them regularly. It is also essential to resemble their natural habitation so that your tiny tadpoles can have their best days of childhood. 

Always keep your aquarium clean to ensure a healthy tank atmosphere. Include plants such as Anacharis, Java Moss, Java Fern, aroids, etc., as they help keep the water clean. Also, plants are a great source of food for the growing tadpoles and, at the same time, serves as an excellent place for playing hide and seek. The more hide-outs these tiny creatures get, the less likely they will refuse the food. 

But the central question lies in what to feed the tadpoles? Well, the food entirely depends on their growth and maturity level. For newborns, store-bought readymade fish foods and flake foods can be the ideal choice—both pet stores and online stores sell tadpoles-specific food. 

Besides, do you want to introduce them to homemade foods? Well, then you can give them blanched veggies and other DIY fish foods. Once they are 3-4 weeks old, you can even introduce them to dead insects and larvae. 

But wait, do you find these foods remain uneaten and left at the bottom of the tank for more than an hour? Chill! Your babies are still not mature enough to eat those foods. So, try again later after a couple of weeks.

However, remove uneaten food from the tank as it will start to produce Ammonia and Nitrite, which are poisonous to all the aquatic lives.

A regular change in food makes it more interesting for them and provides the proper nutrients. Also, as protein is crucial to helping their growth, protein-filled insects can serve them the best.

What Do You Feed Tadpoles?

Well, tadpoles are happily going to eat all the green veggies. Whether it is lettuce, baby spinach, broccoli, or any other soft green vegetables, it is going to be a palatable and healthy meal for your baby tadpoles.

As soon as they start growing, you need to gradually change their diet and add various algae wafers, bloodworms, aphids, crickets, boiled eggs, fish food flakes, frozen fish foods, etc. You can also give small cuts of fruits.

While feeding your tiny pets, keep checking if the previous meals have vanished or not to keep a check on pollution, Ammonia, and Nitrite.

Do Tadpoles Eat Algae?

Yes, of course, they do, when they are too small to digest anything else.
At a very young age, the tadpoles do not grow their intestine to tolerate plant matters and other high-protein insects. So, it is only the algae that keep them thriving and serves the best of nutrients.

Do Tadpoles Eat Duckweed?

Definitely! They love having it!

Lemnoideae refers to a species of flowering aquatic plants known as duckweeds and serves as quite a popular food among freshwater creatures. As soon as the tadpoles grow, they start looking for a change in their diet. When they become quite habituated with a vegetarian diet at this growing phase, a tadpole will never refuse duckweed unless it is already full.

Can Tadpoles Eat Strawberries?

If you can serve them small pieces of strawberries, then why not? 

Tadpoles do eat strawberries. Perhaps, it will be smart to make the tadpoles comfortable with tasty and changing healthy diets.

Can Tadpoles Eat Cucumber?

Yes, they can. 

But you have to prepare it properly to make it suitable for their eating. Unlike any other veggies, cucumber requires a bit more time in preparation while serving it to the tadpoles. It would be best if you blanched the cucumber first. It is much easier for the tadpoles to eat a cucumber when the seeds are separated and chopped into tiny pieces.

Note: It is best to blanch the vegs, spinach, cucumber, etc., before feeding your pets in an aquarium tank; it helps maintain the tank cleaner.

How Much and How Often You Should Feed Tadpoles in an Aquarium?

Do you want to give your tadpoles the proper growth? Of course, you would! But then how often should you feed the tadpoles?

Well, regular feeding is vital to keep your tadpoles healthy. Opting for one or two feeding sessions every day is going to keep them healthy and adequately growing.

In case you want to feed them with large amounts, you can do so on every alternative day. However, it’s better not to follow this technique as your baby pets might not consume such large amounts of food at once, resulting in the decay of the excess foods and turning the water toxic with ammonia and nitrite.

There exists no particular limit of food to provide to your tadpoles. A tiny pinch of flake food would be enough to serve their appetite. Nevertheless, closely introspect how much food they’re having in one session, and based on that, adjust the quantity accordingly.

How to Take Care of Tadpoles?

Now that you know what a tadpole eats, it will become easier for you to take care of your tiny pet. To give the best care to your tadpoles, firstly, you would want to ensure replicating most of their natural environment.

What can be more pleasant for your tadpoles than staying in a sweet home? So, why not arrange for a broad tank, tray, or aquarium for them? 


Prepare the substrate with soil or gravel or rocky or a combination of this. 

Include plenty of plants such as java moss, Java Fern, Anacharis, Marimo, and rocks to make the habitat resemble a natural tadpole habitat. A few rocks in their habitat to hide and for the froglets to lounge in would be great. When the Tadpole starts to develop their hind legs, you need to provide them with some dirt/mud under them to crawl up or drown.

dry area within the tank

Water Parameters:

You would want to provide a tank with a depth of not more than 20 to 25cms; however, a spacious tank is crucial. Tadpoles love everything about the rainy season, so what about keeping them in rainwater? 

Tadpoles inhabit shallow and slow-moving water bodies in nature. You can use an aquarium pump with an air-stone or a bubbler to keep the water stirred and oxygenated; if not, keep changing the water with a water siphon vacuum cleaner as and when the water parameters go off. Use a test kit to test the water regularly.

The ideal water temperature range for Tadpoles is 65° to 75° F (18° to 24° C), but pH is not critical; however, ideally, 7-8. 

You cannot use the tap water without treating it with a conditioner. A water conditioner is one of the prerequisites for an aquarium as the tap water contains Chlorine and chloramines.

It is better not to keep the tank exposed to direct sunlight. Too much temperature is enough to kill your tadpoles within an hour. 

Tankmates of Tadpoles:

Are you thinking of keeping the tadpoles in your aquarium along with other fishes? Hold on! Do not make such a blunder! Not all fishes let the tadpoles stay with them. You need to be very picky while picking a tank mate for your tadpoles. 

Either you need to make sure that you are giving your fishes the best snack ever so that they cannot even think of eating away your tadpoles, or you can not keep them together. Fishes find it quite tasty to eat tadpoles.

Goldfish make the best tank mate for Tadpoles because Goldfish thrive in the same water condition as Tadpoles do. They also thrive better in shallow water bodies. For a better chance of survival, breed goldfish in a separate breeding tank.

However, as the tadpoles grow, they start to eat away from their mates. So, it is better to get a separate tank for your tadpoles to maintain a peaceful ambiance.

What is the Role of Tadpoles in an Aquarium?

In general, they don’t have much of an active role apart from living their own life and saving themselves from predators.

However, Tadpoles are efficient filter feeders and take care of the suspended matters in an aquarium that keeps the filtration system load. 

If used wisely, they can keep the mosquitoes under check. Keep the tadpole tank/tray where the mosquitoes are infested; Tadpoles can keep the mosquitoes under control by eating the mosquito larvae.

Otherwise, watching the entire lifecycle of tadpoles right in front of your eyes is as exciting as the high-school biology lesson. After hatching the eggs, the tadpoles grow miraculously step by step and eventually become adult frogs, which is quite interesting to witness. 

Besides, they are also good at eating away the harmful insects and keeping you entertained with their fun moves.

But wait! It will be no more fun if you have mistakenly kept poisonous dart tadpoles in your tank! So, before buying tadpoles, always make sure to know their poison levels. And opt for the ones, which are harmless and poisonless.


Related reading:

What is a Paludarium? How to set up One?


Now, you have the answer to your question, what does a tadpole eat in the wild and an aquarium, right? Thus, if you are thinking of raising healthy tadpoles, then you would want to have sound knowledge about their diet. 

When it comes to feeding Tadpoles or a comprehensive care guide, we hope this article will satisfy your curiosity.

Though taking good care of the tadpoles may sound quite labor-intensive, but it’s not that laborious; it’s easier than taking care of many other aqua species.  

Having an opportunity to watch them metamorphose into full-grown healthy frogs and observing their fun and merry moves are worthwhile efforts.

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